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The Art, Science, and Coalition Politics of a Pulling Off Modern Multimedia March on Wall Street

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, April 29 2010

Credit: BK and EP

Among the left's organizations and allies pulling together to pull off this afternoon's rally in Manhattan's City Hall Park and subsequent march down to the famed Wall Street bull are the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, National People's Action, Living Liberally, and Revolution Messaging, and organizers say that the event marks a chance for collaborators who came up together in grassroots politics and fought side-by-side in the 2009-2010 health care battle to refine and advance their tactics. "A lot of the people who are now in the position to make decisions came through the netroots together," MoveOn Campaign Director Ilyse Hogue told me earlier today, "We know each other, and so we're all able to work together." Among those decisions they've made is to invest in experimenting with technology and social media to get the march's impact to reverberate far beyond the canyons of lower Manhattan.

To that end, organizers are making use of everything from stickers to liveblogging to multi-channel streaming video -- praying that there's enough wireless and cell network coverage in Wall Street to pull the thing off.

The AFL, MoveOn, and other involved organizations will be busing their members and friends into New York City for the event. Organizers are predicted an estimate 10,000 in-person marchers. But a "virtual march" component will attempt to get people not physically on the ground invested in the experience. Many marches these days have a virtual component, but here organizers say they are attempting to make the experience something more than an exercise in email address collection. "Virtual marchers" who registered their names and hometowns online are having stickers printed in their honor. Those stickers will be stuck on signs, said AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Coordinator Marc Laitin, and carried down from City Hall Park to the famous Wall Street bull by marchers in the streets. "The idea is for people not there to really feel like they're participating," said Laitin, "and for the people marching to think that there are other people marching alongside them."

Revolution Messaging, headed up Obama campaign vet Scott Goodstein, is helping to pull off the texting piece, though organizers say they're still working out exactly what they'll be asking people to text. CoverItLive will be used for liveblogging, and at least one hashtag -- #bankshowdown -- is being used to aggregate Twitter conversations.

Organizers hope to capture some of the messy, real-life color that give marches their oomph. To that end, streaming video. Justin Krebs, who runs the Living Liberally organization, is pulling together a team of people to cover the action in the streets. iPhones and Droids and Flip cams are being called into action. Live streaming will run through Qik, with Livestream acting as the platform. Krebs will be acting as a the producer out in the field. Back at the keyboard, he says, will be Vaguely Qualified Productions' Negin Farsad. Living Liberally and Vaguely Qualified teamed up in the past to produced health reform videos for the SEIU as part of the tongue in cheek Healthy Americans Against Reforming Medicine (a.k.a. HAARM) campaign. Farsad will cut together live video on the fly to capture a sense of the event.

"We're trying to create an experience for people who can't be at the rally," says Krebs. "We're trying to capture the feel, to give a sense of where there is more than one thing happening at once. You go to a rally, and there are people with signs, and then you turn and there are cops, and it's all exciting." He laughs. "The challenge is that live mobile streaming is not great." To prepare, Krebs says he canvassed the march route in preparation yesterday, running speed tests on hot spots. Will City Hall Park's wifi or AT&T's cellular hookups be able to support streaming video? Maybe! Krebs is hopeful that any resulting choppiness only adds to the cinéma vérité feel of the whole thing. And if one stream fails, there will be other cell phones and mini cameras filling in the gaps. There's a good chance, at least, that the march's high mark will be captured. "The Staples Office Supply down by the Wall Street bull has a wireless network" he says with a laugh.

However it plays out, organizers are looking at today's Wall Street rally as a useful chance to work together and get some practice at modern organizing. "There are flash-points of convergence," said Hogue, "where we can send one unified message through Twitter, through calling Congress, through just coming together. Our members are super excited. It's really been fun."

The AFL's portal for today's rally is here, MoveOn's is here, and National People's Action's is here.